Productivity = Gone: Defender’s Quest

By Andrew Smee on October 11th, 2011 at 5:30 pm.

Zombies who queue: politeness is its own reward.

Oh no. It’s happened again. I’ve started playing a Tower Defence game. My email inbox and To Do list are not going to be happy, because out goes any sense of doing any work today in favour of upgrading and recharging and next wave and circle placement and what’s this? It’s got an RPG-based levelling up your party metagame? That’s it. I’m done for.

Defender’s Quest comes from a quartet whose website trips over itself in it’s enthusiasm for what is wanted from one of these games. Check out how happy these guys sound! Why thank you, I do want varying difficulty levels, cross-platform support and no DRM while at the same time not wanting artificial padding, endless busywork and byzantine menus. Gimmie!

So it’s a tower defence game which works really well. That’s the core of what you’ll be doing, but ontop of that is a Really Quite Good, Actually story about a librarian called Azra and her struggle to escape a lost and diseased land, hounded by various ne’er-do-wells. The game begins with Azra, dying of a terrible plague, being chucked off the side of a cliff into a pit of rotting bodies before being tempted into hell by Satan and one of his minions. Which is, you know, quite a stern beginning, but one that swiftly sees her escaping from death’s clutches and back into the real world by use of her previously unknown magical power of tower defenceing.

The towers, such as they are, are Azra’s friends and companions she meets along the way. I’ve met a Barbarian and a Huntress so far, melee and ranged towers respectively. To be able to place more towers, you have to hire more soldiers to your party from taverns and towns. These extra party members can in turn have their weapons and armour upgraded from buying inventory at shops, as well as the colour of their outfits. Which lends itself to moments where I’ve thought “time to unleash the pink barbarian and his +3 sword!” You can rename the little guys too, and it’s charming to watch a real team you’ve put together help defend Azra with all their gusto.

Once you’ve beat the roving hordes you gain difficulty-dependant XP and currency rewards. I’ve not even begun to attempt the higher difficulties, as a full three star ranking seems to require a team of mighty proportions and my level 4 archer isn’t going to cut it right now. When Azra or one of her party members levels up, you can choose from a simple skill tree to specialise specific soldiers into different kinds of tower, from poison damage to slowing effects, so you have total control over what kind of army you want to deploy. Come on, that’s great!

The actual defending also makes thematic sense as well. As in, you’ll buy some wares at a town and carry on, then be attacked by zombies made out of that town’s downtrodden people at your out of town campsite. Or the enemy army that’s been after you has finally caught up with you. All the battles so far have had a logical internal consistency, which is saying something for this kind of game. That carries over to the world map, which shows the effects you’ve had on it, so the prison you’ve just broken out of now has a huge gaping hole in the side of it. Neat!

And for the first time, it’s a tower defence game where the plot is driving me onwards just as much as the next arena. I’ve been playing this to see what happens to Azra and what the power-hungry enemy’s next move will be next just as much as seeing numbers go up and monsters fall down, which again is saying something for the genre.

You can try it out too: the charitably large demo is hosted on the website, and torrents are available for it as well.

Defender’s Quest is slated for a November release.

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76 Comments »

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  1. Wilson says:

    Ooh, sounds pretty neat. I like Tower Defence games, and this sounds like it has a ton of awesome stuff on top. And a demo!

    • jokomul says:

      I love them too, but to me they’re mainly just “I’m bored so I’ll go on Armorgames and play some flash games” games. I’m not sure I would ever purchase one. I’ll give the demo a shot and we’ll see how much it is when it’s released I guess…

  2. KilgoreTrout_XL says:

    They figured it would be ok if they just checked out the website. They figured there was no way the demo would run on their ancient work PCs.

    They were wrong.

    DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN.

  3. Dasos says:

    Graphics put me off a bit, BUT GIMMIE GIMMIE GIMMIE

  4. larsiusprime says:

    @KilgoreTrout_XL –

    This is larsiusprime, the game’s developer. Does the game run at a decent clip on your machine? We’ve tested it on some old stuff, but not exhaustively, so I’m interested in hearing how it works on your machine :)

    Also to anyone trying to download the torrents – the torrents are set to web-seed from my public dropbox, so they SHOULD work even if no humans are actively seeding the files, but if you run into any trouble let me know and I’ll try to get you your demo file any way I can.

    • KilgoreTrout_XL says:

      Hi Larsius. Thanks for the demo- it’s a lot of fun. I’ve emailed it to several of my friends to try and get them fired too.

      And to answer your question, It runs great on this PC. Here’s some system info:

      Mozilla Firefox 7.0.1
      Win XP Professional 5.1.2600
      HP Compaq dc7800 Small Form Factor;
      86 Family 6 Model 23 Stepping 6 GenuineIntel ~2991 Mhz

      BIOS Version/Date Hewlett-Packard 786F1 v01.24, 3/18/2008
      SMBIOS Version 2.5

      Total Physical Memory 2,052.00 MB
      Available Physical Memory 73.40 MB
      Total Virtual Memory 2.00 GB
      Available Virtual Memory 1.96 GB

    • larsiusprime says:

      Thanks, Kilgore! That’s really encouraging!

      And this is just the browser version? (That’s usually the slowest build of the three). Cool!

      Glad you like the game! Hope I don’t destroy everyone’s workday.

      Also: we want to respect people’s time, so although we tried our best to balance things, if it feels too grind-y you can adjust the experience gain multiplier in the options menu under “accessibility,” along with a host of other features. You can also export your save files from the demo so you don’t lose this play time when the full version comes out, and continue right where you left off.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Hey, neat game you have made. Looking forward to purchasing it.

      If I could make one suggestion… have you looked at the linear scaling of power cost:effect for the main summoner lady? I found myself reluctant to upgrade her skills, since it just made her spells more costly at the same rate it made them more powerful. I can see how it could be advantageous to avoid the cooldown on a power, but it seems more likely that I would be unable to afford the more powerful spell.

    • larsiusprime says:

      @Hallgrim:

      We have looked at the scaling for the spells, actually. The way the game is balanced, every time you level up, you get a pretty sizable boost to Azra’s max PSI, so if we didn’t scale the cost, after only a few levels then the cost as a fraction of your PSI is so minimal you can just spam spells all day.

      However, we don’t want to make it not worth upgrading the spells, so we try to make it so that the increase in benefit outweighs the additional cost.

      For instance, Level 1 lightning does 10 damage and costs 10, so 1 PSI / DMG, and is only enough to one-shot the very earliest enemies.

      Level 2 lightning does 35 damage, and costs 15, so 2.3 PSI / DMG.

      At Level 3 it jumps to 80 damage for 20 PSI, etc.

      Of course, we’re human like anybody else so maybe we screwed up the balance despite all the above. If you keep playing the game and find that this explanation of what’s going on under the hood still doesn’t satisfy your concerns, by all means shoot me an email and we’ll look into alternate ways to deal with balancing this feature :)

    • ShineyBlueShoes says:

      You totally destroyed my day off to do school work and study… so where/when can I buy this? I probably just can’t read and it’s in giant orange font somewhere.

    • larsiusprime says:

      Game is currently scheduled for November 2011. We’ll let you know if it changes. We’re pretty close to done at this point, just got a lot of polishing to do on the game’s last five acts.

      As for where you can buy it, we’ll be selling it on our own storefront, and any other digital distribution portal that will take us. So far, Desura is definitely a go. I’ll let you know if Steam/Impulse/Direct2Drive, etc, let us get on board, too. Most of them require you to have a finished game to look at, so we’ll have to wait until we get a final release candidate before we pitch them.

    • Hematite says:

      I’m back everyone! I just finished playing through the demo, and I had a great time!

      Some of the ability leveling is setting off my min-maxer alarms though. You’re probably right re: the lightning bolt above.

      I was particularly struck by the melee abilities, the single hit and double hit (sorry, forget the correct names). Levelling up the single hit was going to add 3 damage every 0.3 seconds, and levelling up the double hit was going to add 2×2 damage every 1.2 seconds. Levelling single hit would do an extra 12 damage over 1.2 seconds while levelling the double hit would only do 4! (If I understand correctly, and if not it might need some more explanation in-game)

      The speed up passive had a funny look about it as well. Not quite sure how you’re doing the speed calculations, but I think the tooltip suggested that speed 20 would hit twice as often as speed 10. The first level of the ability is just +1 speed, which is about twice as powerful if you’re going from 10 ->11 than if you’re going 20->21. I didn’t look at the higher levels of the ability (since upgrading attack strength seemed to be significantly more powerful), so you might have this covered already. Just thought I should bring it up since speed abilities are a popular choice for game breaking balance problems.

      But I had a great time, and look forward to playing more! It turns out I’m a sucker for persistent troops between levels – probably too much Cannon Fodder and X-COM in my youth.

    • Hallgrim says:

      larsiusprime: Thanks for the reply. I didn’t realize the way the lightning scaled. I was looking at Frenzy and Healing, which both cost the same per second of frenzy/point of damage healed regardless of the spell level. I can see how later on there are more friendly units on the field so these have a bigger impact, but it still struck me as a little off. Cheers!

    • Veret says:

      @larsius:

      Don’t you DARE release this thing in November; I will fail every last one of my final exams. Oh, and if you still need performance data: I’m running the browser version with no problems, except for a noticeable but short (1-2 sec) slowdown at the beginning of each level. My computer is an ASUS laptop that was fairly beefy…three years ago.

  5. Dave Mongoose says:

    I just don’t get the appeal of tower defense normally, but the over-world map and RPG stylings tempt me to try this…

  6. Metonymy says:

    So..if you like this, play Kingdom Rush, which is better in a lot of ways.

    http://armorgames.com/play/12141/kingdom-rush

    Good production values, and each level is hard without being annoying.

    • Advanced Assault Hippo says:

      Another vote for Kingdom Rush. It’s stupidly good for a free flash game.

      I would have happily paid a fiver for it.

    • Aquamarine Jesus says:

      I checked out Kingdom Rush after playing Defender’s Quest. I’m not saying Kingdom Rush is a bad game but I honestly liked Defender’s Quest much better. I saw little in Kingdom Rush to make it anything more than yet another run-of-the-mill tower defense.

      Defender’s Quest puts much more of an emphasis on each individual unit (towers) than any other tower defense game I’ve played. Each unit can be equipped with gear and leveled along different skill paths, allowing you to customize each unit to a degree I’ve never seen in a tower defense. That and the intriguing story line breathe some life into a genre that was becoming rather stale.

    • Hematite says:

      I second the recommendation of Kingdom Rush, but also prefer Defenders Quest. The party levelling and equipment in this puts it on a different level.

    • larsiusprime says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Hematite!

      We’ll be going over the skill tree with a fine-toothed comb before final release, so we’ll try to make sure to address those issues.

    • wonkavision says:

      Kingdom Rush is crazy good (fun, production value), but I’m stuck on the third-to-last stage and suspect it may be impossible to beat the game without purchasing the “premium content” for the extra stars and reinforcements. The strategy guide videos show a player with all the bonuses; the strategies employed don’t work otherwise.

      I started an Excel workbook to figure the game out. I’m only one point away from the last barracks bonus and could probably beat a few of the stages available now if I’d spent my points differently.

  7. Njordsk says:

    I never played tower defense, but every time I see one popping somewhere I want to test it. And then I play something else, stupid me.

    I’d like to test the browser based one, but I don’t have a kind of work allowing me to do so :p

  8. Syra says:

    IS IT JUST ME OR IS THE GUY IN THE FIRST SCREENSHOT ATTACKING WITH HIS LIGHTNING PENIS?

    • TechniMan says:

      I thought that at first, but I think it’s more the wizard at the bottom shooting the lightning at the other guy’s penis.
      I somewhat wish that you were right, though. For teh lulz

  9. admanb says:

    The Apple icon with “Coming Soon” makes me happy.

  10. larsiusprime says:

    @admanb:

    Yeah, we’re trying to get the Mac version of the demo out as soon as we can. Right now it compiles and runs, we’re just ironing out some kinks with the fullscreen resolution-switching code. The full version will DEFINITELY support Mac. For now, Mac players can at least play the browser version.

  11. namad says:

    the flash game series “protector” innovated all of those tower defense features ages ago… in fact it’s innovated just about all advances to the genre that I know of! why is rps so prejudice to have never mentioned any of the protector games?

  12. Derpentine says:

    Downloaded demo – didn’t install as it’s Adobe AIR (I should have guessed seeing there was a flash version too). Also, if you’re selling a commercial product – supply http links for your demo. Torrents are fine, but a little professionalism never hurt anyone.

    In before someone calls me an elitist pig or w/e.

    • larsiusprime says:

      @Derpentine: (I’m from the dev team)

      That’s a reasonable sentiment. When the full game comes out, we’ll try to address those concerns, since once we’ve got some money coming in we can afford a host that can handle the bandwidth, and of course buying the full version will also have an HTTP link.

      Also – any particular reason Adobe AIR is a barrier for you? Did you mean “I didn’t choose to install it”, or “it wouldn’t install?” Either way, no offense meant, of course – I’m just trying to collect information for future development decisions, and I’d love to have your honest uncensored feedback.

    • Aquamarine Jesus says:

      I’d like to hear whats so horrid about Adobe AIR as well. I have heard other people complaining about this when talking League of Legends, apparently they use it for part of the client.

      I think it’s great that you are supporting Linux as well with more than a promise… (I’m looking at you dungeons of dredmore…)

    • zeroskill says:

      Concerning the League of Legends client its less of a problem of Adobe Air per se, but the fact that everything from masteries trees to runes is put in an external client, and its very unresponsive. It feels bad, takes sometimes seconds to load a new screen/page, it feels like browsing a web page more that a interface.

    • Aquamarine Jesus says:

      Ah now that I can relate too. I actually thought that the client for LOL before the game actually starts *was* just an embedded browser of some type. It gave me the same feel as the loader/patcher for WoW.

      I only played the flash version of DQ, hopefully the standalone doesn’t suffer from the same unresponsiveness as the LOL client. I can deal with it when I’m just making a new rune page or respeccing masteries but playing an entire game like that would not last very long.

    • larsiusprime says:

      @Aquamarine Jesus:

      Can’t speak for LOL, but as far as my experience goes, the installable DefQ version runs faster than the browser version, and let’s you do cool stuff like fullscreen / resolution switch.

      (Full disclosure: I’m the dev)

    • Craig Stern says:

      I haven’t played LOL either, but it sounds like it’s dynamically loading external content from the internet (AIR can do that), which I would imagine is probably why it behaves that way. As a platform, AIR is actually pretty solid if you optimize your game well (and has the added benefit of providing automatic Mac/Linux availability to boot).

    • Derpentine says:

      @larsiusprime:

      Simply put : I feel that, like Flash – AIR apps are of a low quality(I’ve used a few in the past – not really games tho) and the requirement of an extra framework for which I will most likely not have any other use; which has a dubious security record and – by the installer taking about 40 seconds to start off SSD – seems to be doing things in the background, it’s unlikely that I’d want it there. Apps built in AIR seem to lack the pollish of a fully developed native product – just like IE embeds make native apps look bad (if you remember early steam, Origin, terrible ‘system tools’ on your friends PC’s). Like fps games that run in a browser (using ungodly plugins) – no matter how good they are claimed to be – they will never be for me.

      To me, quality is everything – it shouldn’t be slick and animated with abused effects and skins making it look awful, it has to be raw and provide feedback, use resources wisely and have had the developer put time into it. Flash, AIR and phone-esque apps are the McDonalds to my preferred steak joint. Fine for people looking for that, but not what I’d consider dinner.

      I hope you guys do well – and maybe next time round :)

    • larsiusprime says:

      Well, as a flash developer I can say that I both love and hate Flash, and I understand your concerns. :)

      You can’t win ‘em all, so I appreciate your honesty!

      For me, the reason we went with flash was it was what I already knew, and it was the easiest way to hit all three platforms. Now that I’ve got a lot more programming experience, I’m looking into some other cross-platform solutions. Next go-round I’ll either try HaXe with C++ targeting, or Unity (should they come out with Linux support), or something like that.

    • Premium User Badge

      jrodman says:

      There are a few minor problems with Adobe Air.

      The track record of security in both flash and air is really bad. I’d feel much more comfortable installing a native executable via a reputable “manufacturer” and channel than installing the air runtime and its autoupdates.

      The performance of AIR on not-windows is not the best.

      The behavior of AIR on not-windows in terms of fullscreen, cpu burning, etc is suboptimal. (Some of this is true on windows also.)

      Adobe has abandoned Linux as a target environment after failing at producing a stable runtime for some years.

      All told, I’m a bit meh on it. I’ve purchased some AIR games anyway, on the strength of the games, but I’d be happier if i could remove it.

  13. The Army of None says:

    “Also: we want to respect people’s time, so although we tried our best to balance things, if it feels too grind-y you can adjust the experience gain multiplier in the options menu under “accessibility,” along with a host of other features. You can also export your save files from the demo so you don’t lose this play time when the full version comes out, and continue right where you left off.”

    Yes. A thousand times yes.

    • Heliocentric says:

      I read your blog/article and have a greater understanding of why you choose levelling up as a core mechanic. I guess as a ‘hardcore’ player I’ve gotten spoiled as a privileged elite that many games are tuned around, I noticed you mentioned Advance Wars have you played the latest game? No persistent levelling of any kind, simply carefully tuned challenges and tools, much like portal for example, you have 1 tool set and you apply it.

      I’m glad you’ve put so much thought into it though.

  14. Heliocentric says:

    Respect the player? Want to minimise grind? just have mission fixed levels, or better yet get rid of levelling all together.

    Its not a bad little TD, played the whole of the demo, but really now is the leveling actually a good thing?

    • larsiusprime says:

      @Heliocentric:

      I get that, and if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fair.

      The main rationale for “grinding” is because it’s a central mechanic of RPG’s and I set out to make a combination Tower Defense / RPG. And it doesn’t HAVE to be bad if you implement it correctly.

      I wrote an article explaining my rationale and the nuanced interplay between challenge, leveling, etc, here:

      http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/LarsDoucet/20110822/8248/RPGs_challenge_and_grinding.php

      So that’s my answer to the question “is the levelling actually a good thing?” :)

    • Heliocentric says:

      Don’t take it personally, I’m very much a fundamentalist when it comes to levelling in games. I mean, I love rankings, when spacechem tells me I’m in the top 1% I smile.

      But if I ever lose a challenge because I choose something 5 hours ago, or because I need to go complete a dozen menial challenges until my characters are ready?

      Heck, as much as hate shooters getting infected with this stuff at least if I am good enough I can win, when the MMO trope of you cant kill that player, he is 10 levels higher and thus is 90% more awesome takes hold as it does here it makes me frown.

      Nicely made game though. GJ

    • larsiusprime says:

      Hey, that’s fair, I’m cool with it :) Not every design appeals to every person, so sorry this one left you out!

  15. Koozer says:

    One tiiiny criticism: I don’t like being able to place guys anywhere I want, I like a Defence Grid system where you really have to choose which spot is the best for each tower. In here I just line up rangers to cover the most ground. Other than that, it’s fantastic!

  16. mr.ioes says:

    Am I blind? I don’t find anything indicating the price of this beautiful game.

    • larsiusprime says:

      @mr.ioes:

      That’s because we haven’t decided on a price yet :)

      We’re planning on giving people a pretty good deal, I’m not one for expensive Indie games. If I may ask – what sounds good to you?

    • mr.ioes says:

      That’s a tough one.

      I’d go for a blind buy at a maximum of 10 euro. Above that, I’d read reviews about the gamelength and decide afterwards. Honest opinion, I know it will cost more :P
      In any case, it has to be available on steam!

    • truthiness says:

      @Larius

      If you look at some of the successful Indie games on Stream recently, they seem to all hover around the $5 price point. Just to name a few, Dungeons of Dredmor and, more recently, The Binding of Isaac both launched at $4.99. Both of these games have gotten great reviews and both have hours and hours of content. Another example is more of a typical RPG, the Breath of Death VII and Cthulu Saves the World combo pack which launched at only $2.99.

      Anyways, I know you cannot make direct comparisions between these games and Defender’s Quest, but I think it’s worth noting that $5 is a “blind buy” price for a lot of people, and having that price show up on the front page of Steam will certainly get you some attention.

      Just my $0.03 (adjusted for inflation).

    • Hematite says:

      I think how much I would be happy paying depends a lot on how big the rest of the game is, both in levels and in additional game mechanics.

      If the demo is somewhere between an sixth and a quarter of the full game (which I’m guessing it may be based on how much of the skill tree is covered) I’d be thinking of a four pound-ish game on Steam, which is about the level I’m happy to take a punt on and I won’t feel bad about as long as I was entertained for an hour or two.

      If the demo is more like 10% of the full game and there are new game mechanics being introduced to keep it fresh I think it could work at the 6-8 pound level on the strength of the gameplay. That might sound unfair, as the game I would pay twice as much for would take more than twice as much developer effort, but that’s just how it seems to work. Once you get over a fiver I expect a notable gameplay experience that I couldn’t get from a free Flash game. There’s also a ceiling around that price that you won’t be able to get through without some serious graphic and UI work.

      On the other hand, once you get down to about 3 pounds it seems like even the developers aren’t taking the game seriously and you might actually get fewer sales than you would at a higher price.

      It’s probably too late into your development to mention it now, but I think there’s a sweet spot for new developers where you can release a tight but fairly short game for about £4 to build cred for the ‘real’ game you do next where you can implement the epic plans you demo’d in the first game.

    • larsiusprime says:

      Wow, so, at the risk of under-selling myself here, based on what you all have written, I think you’ll be happy with our price :) There’s three other guys who have a say in final pricing, so nothing’s final though.

  17. mr.ioes says:

    - delete please -

  18. Mattressi says:

    Just played it for a bit and it’s awesome! I’ve never been much into tower defence games (except PvZ), but the RPG mechanics make it feel like a more-tactical JRPG – which is a very good thing to me. Also, I love the humour and charm of it; it’s funny, but not too silly, which is a good balance.

    Regarding pricing, I’m generally very stingy. I will buy games on a whim if they’re $1 or maybe $2 (I know; I’d buy some chips on a whim for more…I’m not sure what’s wrong with me lol) and I’ll buy decent games after trying a demo which entertained me for a bit for $5. And games that I really want, I’ll pay $10 to $15 for – Defender’s Quest is one of those games. (That probably doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that I don’t pay more than $15 for any game anymore, that’s reasonably high praise from me :P)

    Also, I’m not sure why others have issues with Adobe Air. LoL uses it really poorly, but Defender’s Quest runs flawlessly on my broken machine (it was a good computer 4 years ago, though the GFX card is now all but dead…). My computer can’t run LoL anymore and struggles with Frozen Synapse, but Defender’s Quest ran perfectly during gameplay and only slowed down when it did that wavy effect at the start of battles – it still ran fine, but the cursor responded slowly, which is a very mild issue since the wavy effect lasted for a few seconds and didn’t actually happen when I was meant to be playing; just at the very start.

    Is there any chance that there’ll be some kind of end game challenge mode? I’m already getting lots of replayability from the demo because of the different difficulty levels of each battle, but I was thinking that some kind of infinite horde/survival type end game could be fun. I’ll be getting the game regardless, but I just thought I’d ask. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the release :)

  19. Mattressi says:

    I think my comment has disappeared. I can see it in the sidebar, but not in this comment section. Anyway, the general gist of it is: this looks awesome, I’m going to buy it :D

    Edit: Or not…would someone be so kind as to delete this?

  20. Sky775 says:

    There went my evening! Great demo and I’m a sucker for tower defense. If there was a $10 button to buy it, I wouldn’t hesitate.

    • larsiusprime says:

      If you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll get a coupon code good for a nice discount when the full version comes out :)

  21. Nim says:

    I’ve just finished the demo and all missions on their hardest difficulties and I can easily say that the game is fun and I want to play more, but there are some things I’d like to change before I would be prepared to pay for it. I also love the accessibility settings you give, props for that.

    First of all the use of flash (seems like it) of all languages makes me think of freeware web-based flash games and advertisement. I’d like to see the game remade in a high-level language instead. I realise that you want to support as many platforms as possible but I’d rather have Java than flash tbh.

    Secondly, the game need a better presentation. The current art evokes feelings of ripped sprites, freeware shoddy flash and ripped sprites. But the game graphics are entire passable and functional when you get into it. All except the GUI. The GUI just looks like bad flash buttons, while 100% functional it needs to get rid of that super-cheap-crap-flash look it currently has.

    Otherwise you’ve made a solid product and I really hope it sells well.

    • larsiusprime says:

      @Nim:

      Hey, thanks for the honest feedback! The reason we used flash is that originally this game was supposed to be a free flash game (where we get paid via sponsorship) – but eventually it evolved into something bigger and we decided to put in lots of extra time and effort and make the jump to full commercial release. For future titles, I’d probably work in something like HaXe that gives you cross-platform support, but with the ability to output in native C++, etc, as well as flash.

      As for art stuff, can I get you to be a bit more specific? For the non-UI graphics, which strike you as the least “good” – overworld, menus, party screen, battle graphics, character sprites, cutscenes etc?

      And as for the UI – what would you suggest? Our main focus was on usability rather than texturing everything up, though we could certainly give everything a little layer of visual polish if it wouldn’t interfere with functionality.

    • Premium User Badge

      Tam-Lin says:

      I’d just like to say I like the graphics; they serve the game well, I think. But I preferred the old Desktop Dungeon graphics to the new one, as well. There’s no need for something photorealistic.

      As for pricing, I’d gladly pay $20, perhaps more, but I’m weird, and employed.

    • Mattressi says:

      I actually rather liked the sprites and other graphics. The only thing I think could be improved is more varied battle areas with a little more detail thrown in – but I’m not sure if that fits with the whole “summoner going into another dimension/realm/thingy to fight the bad guys”. Still, it’s only a minor gripe.

    • Nim says:

      You have splendid functionality and I commend that but presentation do matter. Problem is that all the excellent functionality is located in the back-end and the customers will not likely see the code. What they see is the frontend which are buttons and bars, character portrait and stats. The GUI touch-up is something you could do towards the very end as it’s not really that function-critical. Things like an appropriate skill font, icons, you’ll want relevant backgrounds for items and skills panel. Things that evoke thoughts of the medieval, fantasy, something relevant to the world you’ve come up with. Right now it’s all grey boring gradient. It’s unnecessary details to the game from a purely functional perspective but a grey background gives the impression that you don’t really care that much which on the contrary you do. Nokia used the functional principle and they’re in a bit of stagnation right now while apple, promoting style under the leadership of late Steve Jobs ran past. Don’t go overboard though, too much styling is never good either.

      I browsed through some of the more better Newgrounds defence game submissions and many have stylized menus and panels. Those are part of your competition and the worst thing is that they are free.

    • larsiusprime says:

      @Nim:

      So… something like this?
      Screenshot mockup

    • Nim says:

      Absolutely! That looks spendid, so little which does a lot.

      Another relatively easy improvement you can do is to the main map by adding more sprites for such things as nature, civilization (or lack thereof) and so on but I assumed the map is not in its final form either.

    • larsiusprime says:

      Here’s what the new save menu looks like:

      Screenshot Mockup

      And yeah, we can make a bunch of “doodads” for the overworld map. It’s got some big empty spots right now :)

  22. theEscapeHatch says:

    I’m really enjoying the writing in this game. Adds some much-needed personality and charm that partially makes up for the blocky in-game graphics and typical (albeit fun) tower-defense gameplay.

  23. choplogik says:

    Love it! Burned through the demo tonight. Lots of neat features. Look forward to buying the final product. If I had to critique, the town menus seemed clunkier & out of place aside most of the other interface sections.

  24. Nico says:

    @ larsirusprime I thoroughly enjoyed playing this Demo, I’m a fan of the more accessible tower defence games, like cursed treasure, desktop TD, kingdom rush and PVZ. I’m also a big fan of accessible RPG’s like Titan quest and Diablo, so I felt right at home. The menu’s are very clear and helpful, and little streamlined tips like being able to see that a weapon will benefit 2 of your team and be no change to the other is awesome. I am often put off by any kind of party based RPG (even the best ones like mass effect) but I’m appreciating the team construction here without feeling like I’m managing a playgroup.

    I wanted to take some time to point out some thoughts I had while playing, but this should all be taken with the grain of salt that I love the game and cant wait to buy it!

    @theescapeHatch I’m right with you on the writing, its absolutely charming, balancing between the somber start and belivable humour from the characters.

    @Nim The graphics that really jarred with me were the base town screens, they seem much too clinical and didnt hold as much character as the rest of the game screens. Between the framed out image, lack of people and the basic looking buttons laid out evenly across the screen it felt disconnecting. If it was my game (!) I would change the buttons to echo the pixel art style that runs through each of the game’s other screens (maybe with a small sprite logo (sword, armor, person’s head etc) next to the text. At this point that style is the games identity and the towns are the only screen where you don’t see it. I would also definitely add a sentence or two of atmospheric text to the town screens themselves (much like what appears when you enter from the world map). The town screens are very clean, but they have no soul.

    I honestly dont think the programming language that this is made in bears any relation to the success of the game. So many things are more important. and if performance holds up (as it appears to) then any objection to the platform just sounds a bit snobby (sorry @nim)

    My next point is somewhat dumb, but it did create a frustrating situation for me. When deciding on the name and outfit for my characters I couldnt see what members of my existing party looked like, their names and level etc to decide how to fit the new person in. I had an Idea of creating a uniform and differentiating role by hair colour, but I couldn’t remember what my first bezerker looked like, so everyone from then on was just randomly assigned colors.

    If I had that information I would have started fantasizing about hypothetical defence roles and backstory (as crazy as that sounds) and it would have helped me structure my team in a way that was meaningful to me from the get go:

    i.e. first line of defence wears blue pants, specializes in high defence (these guys are old friends with posh names and a non flashy approach to combat, solid alpha strike for the line), main damage dealers wear red pants, specializes in hitting multiple enemies at once (I’ll use these nutter twins at choke points, Dude in the pink pants and wacky hair is my last line of defence (he’s a bit of a loner that excels at one skill thats good as a last resort).

    Thinking about it now I probably could have gone back and looked at the team again before proceeding, but I was feeling somewhat stuck into making a decision there and then.

    In regards to performance, My computer is definitely a dog, it has trouble with a number of flash games (the binding of issac is unplayably slow). I had major slowdown during the aforementioned “wavey bit” and there was some mouse lag throughout, but otherwise totally playable.

    @larsirusprime I noticed what I think was a bug, I had a level 8 ranger with 2 points in basic shot (18 dmg 0.4 cooldown), when I got another point to distribute and moused over the upgrade button neither the damage or cooldown values changed in the description. This description also stayed once I upgraded to 3 points on that skill. ( The tool tip during a battle seems to indicate its 29 damage with a 0.3 second cooldown). SO either level 2 and 3 are the same for basic shot (interesting design decision?!), or its a bug :)

    I really appreciated the “no random fights” more structured plot flow, but I actually feel like the whole game wouldn’t quite be long enough! I understand that the demo represents 20ish percent of the entire game, and I look forward to seeing the rest of it, but I would definitely like to see some absurd challenges after the end of the game (maybe the later extreme challenges are harder than I’m expecting). BTW I love love love that the more challenging battles give weapon and scrap rewards and bonuses for perfect scores as well as just xp for completion. It makes getting perfect on all difficulties very compelling.

    I had the same experience of not wanting to upgrade the librarian as her spells started to become too expensive to want to use, in fact I barely used any of the spells during the demo, it was just too much psi. if you wanted to encourage their use you could maybe have them on a timed recharge that was shortened based on the amount of Psi someone was collecting, but not have them actually use up any psi, so someone who is kicking ass can use lightening regularly, but if you are letting everything through you can still hit a frenzy once every 2 minutes regardless of your psi levels. – probably a bit late to experiment with a big change like that. My guess is that the intention is that the spells should feel like a useful tool to get you out of a jam. in my playthrough they felt like a big waste of a very precious resource.

    The quick select keys for placing defenders is great, but I’d love to know why they cant be used to select defenders once they have been placed down. Maybe it was just because i had mouse lag issues, but i like the idea of being able to quickly bring up a character’s profile (and see their range) with the same quick keys (or by just clicking on the portrait for that matter) seems pretty awesome. You’d also have to put in some kind of deselect keystroke to make this seamless

    it wasnt clear to me when damage was taking place or how. i couldnt quite work out the pattern by which the red ghoulies (or others) decided to attack or not, or how much damage they did, and was often taken by surprise when a defender was lost, which was a little frustrating.

    Sometimes I wasnt clear on the areas that the characters were describing, like whether the pit referred to the starting area or the whole valley for the first 2 acts. Maybe some tool tips on the overworld map so i know what some key things are? – that might might kill the storyline though.

    Ok enough rambling : )

    bring on November :D

  25. Nico says:

    —delete please—

  26. Nico says:

    wow I really killed this thread with my wall of text.

  27. larsiusprime says:

    @Nico-

    Wow, didn’t know anybody was still reading this article!

    Great thoughts! We’ve addressed MOST of those concerns in a new update – it just went live on our website today, version 0.6.0.2.

    Things we’ve fixed:

    1) New UI – put a layer of polish over ALL user interface screens to fix the “boring grey gradients”
    2) Re-balanced skills so you can always see an increase
    3) Re-balanced spells so they don’t ever cost more PSI
    4) Re-designed the healer so he isn’t useless
    5) Added professional sound effects
    6) Added new musical tracks
    7) Generally re-balanced levels to smooth out some problems
    8) Added some more tile types to various levels

    I’ll put your suggestions about quick-selecting characters in – it didn’t even occur to me that trying to quick-select a character from the menu could be used to select them on the map if they’ve already been summoned! Brilliant idea!

    I’d also like to make it so you can hit TAB to cycle through all characters on the map. That will help for accessibility as well.

    Interesting ideas with recruiting characters! I didn’t even think people would use them to create uniforms – I’ll do my best to come up with a solution that might help there. Probably just showing the small sprites of the other characters in the party would help. I’ll figure it out.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  28. larsiusprime says:

    @Nico:

    Just updated the demo page with fixes for most of those issues!